Last weekend, the standup world joined us for the third annual SUP Awards presented by BodyGlove. Stoked to see each other and celebrate our sport, the industry was collectively hyped on the pre-Battle of the Paddle buzz. That and the free booze.
At an event like the SUP Awards, with that many champions, that many legends and, yes, that many big personalities, there are moments. Paddlers fueled by Kona Brewing Company and Kru 82 Vodka hooted at the stage and literally controlled the tempo of the night with their energy. Yes tan, fit athletes smiled their gleaming smiles; industry insiders (that means us too) told marginal jokes and everyone gorged on tacos. Laughter, honor, humility: all were on display that night. Here, we give you an inside look into the moments behind the 2013 SUP Awards as told from a goggled view—four Konas deep.
Laird Hamilton's handshake is not as firm as one might think. That's either because a) I’m a little peeb that doesn’t deserve a firmy, or, more likely, b) if he squeezed too hard, he'd crush my weak little phalanges. Also, his wife, volleyball star and model Gabrielle Reece, has a commanding presence just as powerful as his. I felt like a dwarf standing around with Greek legends Paris and Helen of Troy.
Speaking of good-looking: in general, guys from Hawaii pull the hottest chicks. Maybe it's the caliber of female on the islands, or the lack of clothing that adorn or their sun-caressed bodies but damnnnn! Damn.
Justin Riney’s speech as winner of the Expedition of the Year was a 15-minute epic read off his iPhone that included nuggets from his trip, thank-yous to everyone in his contact list (seriously, everyone), all in a down-home, southern tone politely reminding us that the planet (specifically Florida waterways) need protecting. Best line of the night: “I’m the only (sponsored) Quiksilver athlete you’ve never heard of.” But hey, the guy has a cause. And yeah, he'd been out on the water for 270-plus days. He had some stuff to get off his chest.
Kai Lenny is the governor of standup. He's good-looking (thank you GQ, for styling out our sport’s most accomplished athlete), well-spoken, uber-confident and he has the results to back it up. Case in point: he convincingly won a little elite race called the 2013 Battle of the Paddle two days later.
Izzi Gomez is 13. She won Female Rookie of the Year. She was a little tongue-tied but that's understandable. Here's to a bright future.
Gerry Lopez has his own gravitational pull. His introduction for Hamilton's Lifetime Achievement award had everyone laughing and listening for 10 minutes. It was a highlight of the night.
Sam George's hair blow-dries itself. I saw it with my own eyes. Fittingly, co-host Dave Boehne's hair slicks itself back. They just stand there and look good.
Sixteen-year-old Rookie of the Year winner Mo Freitas speaks. Before interviewing him backstage, I wasn't sure if that was true. Turns out that not only can he speak, but he can speak well and with humility. He's just modest, that's all. Refreshing.
Brazil officially made their entrance into the awards with Nicole Pacelli taking second in the women's poll. She's unbelievable to look at, she rips and she loves the sport. And I love how Brazilians say "stoke-ed" with two syllables.
People like free alcohol. Surprise!
And the photo booth? Hands-down the smartest thing you could have at an alcohol-fueled party. An oversized toothbrush, a batman mask, a giant pacifier and a camera on auto pilot make for insane pics.
Party foul of the night: we told everyone the party would last until midnight. Casino San Clemente wasn’t having it. They shut the lights off and—the killer—stopped serving alcohol at 11, much to the chagrin of the loud crowd.
Standup paddle athletes are well-behaved. After we were kicked out of the Casino we headed to Knuckleheads, the local watering hole to celebrate another successful show. Only brand-associated folk and SUP mag staff were there. Everyone else had some race to attend or something.
Until next year …